In Washington state, for-profit businesses owned by 24 Indian tribes have special agreements to receive payments out of the public treasury. Under an arrangement made by Governor Gregoire in 2007, 19 of these tribes receive “refund” payments equal to 75% of the state gas tax on all motor vehicle fuel sold on tribal lands.
KING 5 News reported today that the Seattle Seawall Project will take a year longer to build than officials promised. In addition, Seattle officials have increased the project budget from the original $290 million price tag to $409 million, a 33% increase.
The recent news story about public officials not letting the Ride the Ducks group tour vehicles use bus lanes has renewed a controversy over reserving parts of public streets for transit only. Last year, KOMO TV reported many in the public are unhappy with the government-restricted lanes, including the tagger of the well-known plea, “Metro stop stealing our lanes.” The public response prompted a debate about whether the lanes are working for people or not.
Danny Westneat’s Seattle Times column on phasing out single-family housing in Seattle drew over 250 comments within the first three hours of being posted online. By the next day, readers had logged over 700 more. Why is a column about housing in Seattle drawing such a large response? A proposal by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s housing task force suggests officials may want to make sweeping changes to many of Seattle’s neighborhoods.
While Sound Transit officials prepare to ask people living in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to pay billions in new taxes for more costly light rail projects, they may be experiencing nervous shock at what just happened in a neighboring city to the north. Voters in Metro Vancouver, B.C. just handed a resounding “No” to local transit officials, coming in 62% against a proposed subway and light rail expansion project.
Lawmakers have again made reducing traffic congestion a top priority for state officials. Prior to 2007, the state used performance-based benchmarks to make sure that transportation tax dollars were being used effectively to reduce traffic congestion. In 2007, lawmakers repealed that language and replaced it five goals of transportation policy. State lawmakers added a sixth policy goal in 2010. Congestion relief is not among them.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is working with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to repeal the state’s low carbon fuel standard regulations (LCFS) as part of passing a broad congestion-relief transportation package. The agreement shows how a governor and lawmakers of both parties can come together to pass important legislation that serves the people of their state. Unfortunately, things are working differently in Washington.
According to House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), Democratic leaders have decided to halt work on a transportation package until state leaders agree on a state operating budget. House leaders say they want to work on passing a new capital gains income tax, despite receiving $3.2 billion in new revenue under current tax rates.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee signed a two-year transportation budget into law. The $7.6 billion plan includes about $5 billion for the Washington State Department of Transportation over the next two years, $430 million for the Washington State Patrol, and dedicates about $1.5 billion to pay off Nickel and TPA bonds. The budget for the 2015-2017 biennium also funds other transportation-related offices and departments, like the Department of Licensing.
According to new information provided by the Federal Highway Administration, driving across the United States is on the rise. According to the latest report, nationwide vehicle miles traveled (the amount people drive) in the first three months of the year is up 3.9% compared to last year. The Western region of the United States saw a 5.3% year-over-year uptick in road travel for March alone.
Things will get a bit easier for rideshare drivers and their customers under a bill Governor Inslee signed into law last week. Senate Bill 5550, originally sponsored by Senators Cyrus Habib and Joe Fain, provides a statewide structure of insurance requirements for rideshare companies to allow rideshare expansion across the state. WPC provided analysis on the bill back in February.
Sound Transit’s demands for new taxing authority have become a sticking point in the debate in the legislature over a new transportation package. Sound Transit officials want an estimated $15 billion in new taxing authority. They want a 0.5% increase in Sound Transit’s sales tax authority, to a total of 1.4% (which would bring the total sales tax rate in Seattle to 10.1%), a 0.8% increase in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax authority to a total of 1.1%, and a property tax increase of .25 per $1,000 of assessed value ($100/year on a $400,000 house).
As Sound Transit officials prepare to take over the center lanes of I-90, their newest online advertisement asks the question, “What’s to do when we’re running out of roads?”(Their edited clip was originally from a video promoting highway building.) Unsurprisingly, their answer is to build light rail.
Over the past three years, state lawmakers have sparred over a transportation package that would raise the gas tax and other driver-related fees to build and maintain roads and highways, spend more on transit and fund the Washington State Patrol. In 2013, the state House passed a transportation package that included the controversial Columbia River Crossing project and would have directed state money to local transit operations. The Senate decided against voting on the proposal.
Three elected officials serving on Sound Transit’s Board recently penned an editorial in The Seattle Times calling for a $15 billion increase in regressive taxes to build more light rail. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts and Redmond Mayor John Marchione argue that building light rail is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and improve mobility.
Bob Pishue is the Director of the Coles Center for Transportation at Washington Policy Center. Prior to joining Washington Policy Center in 2013, Bob interned at the Washington Research Council where he produced policy briefs on initiatives and referenda. His last role was the IT and HR Manager for a Bellevue-based retailer. A Washington resident throughout his life, Bob grew up in Everett and graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Bob serves on his church’s annual audit committee and is also an avid golfer. He lives in Kirkland.